Whispertown: In a Parallel State of Mind

As of today, Morgan Nagler’s Whispertown is on their fifth official release and third official name (They began as “Whispertown2000,” before going on to be “The Whispertown 2000” and...

As of today, Morgan Nagler’s Whispertown is on their fifth official release and third official name (They began as “Whispertown2000,” before going on to be “The Whispertown 2000” and now, simply “Whispertown.”)  Whispertown’s latest, Parallel, is out today on Acony Records and the seven-song EP has the band heading in a slightly new direction.  While the folk-pop of the band’s first two LPs (2006’s Livin’ In a Dream and 2008’s Swim) had the band touring with the likes of Rilo Kiley, Bright Eyes, and She & Him, they’ve recently begun delving into “lo-fi electronica” and even a bit of dance music.  I recently got a chance to chat with Nagler about the world of Whispertown when she managed to snag a quick break from the craziness of SXSW.

Izzy Cihak: This project has been through a few transformations, including a number of subtle name changes.  How would you characterize the evolution of the project?

Morgan Nagler: I feel the evolution of the project is much like life, and embracing the process. Trying to exist in the moment and let a thing be what it is.  I look forward to new ideas and seeing how they take their shape, so I try to not let the threat of the past or projection of the future be inhibiting. To me, Parallel is like a chapter I don’t want to end in the big book.

IC: In hindsight, how do you regard your previous work?  Is it still to be expected in your live repertoire? (I must admit that Swim is one of my favorite releases of recent years.)

MN: In hindsight I hold the past albums near. You’re always most excited about the new shit, but it’s been long enough, since 2008, that I can now look back with some perspective. We have mostly been playing new jams, but are currently working out songs from the back catalog for our May dates. Been super fun.

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IC: You’re currently the constant in Whispertown, which is rounded out with a revolving collection of musicians.  Who were the primary contributors to Parallel, and how did you first form relationships with them?

MN: Starting out by myself with just the songs, Jake Bellows and I started to conceptualize a new unique direction. We wanted to experiment with taking the full strummed chords out of the equation, and concentrate on just what notes are most effective in supporting the vibe you want to create. Jake, being no stranger to my songs, having recorded the secret tracks on Livin’ in a Dream in his Omaha basement in 2005, and also mixing that entire record in 2006.

So we showed up in Athens to meet Andy LeMaster with just the songs and ideas… Andy had been a musical and social acquaintance for several  years, and I am a big fan of his work, but it wasn’t until this project that I realized we were soul mates. I felt a true psychic connection, and together the three of us realized some kind of dreamy chapter.  Couldn’t speak higher of the southern gent.

Dave Rawlings has been a mentor and overseer of my work since Swim, and has been sculpting and supporting this realization from the beginning. Our relationship was first formed when we found ourselves co-house-sitting for Blake Sennett in Los Angeles, and I was later kidnapped by him and Gill for several months, writing songs together in Nashville. It was like being sent to the most prestigious song writing school of all-time.

IC: Is there anyone that you would especially like to work with in the future, with whom you haven’t yet gotten the chance?

MN: Tom Petty!

IC: In May you’re hitting the road with Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s.  What can fans and potential fans expect of the band’s live experience?

MN: The live experience this May will be broken down and raw, the root of the songs! Jake Bellows will be playing guitar and singing with me, and Nick White will be vibing out on synthesizers. We all live together in one boat-like cabin, fondly called “The Shack.” It’s a family affair.

IC: Any other big Whispertown plans for 2012?  It’s been a while since your last LP.

MN: We plan on touring a bunch this year and connecting to the people of the world.  And of course, putting out more music ASAP! Tons more new songs… We are Parallel.

Band Interviews

During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.